Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Riopelle interview and feature

So Young
Thanks to a bright invention, Valley favorite Jerry Riopelle is finally on the verge of becoming cool
By Jimmy Magahern

Published by Phoenix New Times, Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's rare to find anybody over 20 inside the noisy arcade castle at Mesa's Golfland during the Saturday morning $8 Video Game Blowout. Never mind anybody over 60.

That's why the gray-haired dude on the Guitar Freaks V machine sticks out like a sore joystick-jamming thumb.

Eyes squinted Clint Eastwood-like, behind rimless bifocals, he studies the frantic anime graphics on the console's screen while striking the pick lever on the simulated guitar controller he's strapped over his untucked burgundy dress shirt. Pressing the red, green and blue buttons that substitute for frets, he keeps pace with a wild Japanese ska tune, hitting enough of the notes at the right time to impress the two 15-year-old boys who've stopped to watch him play.

"Wow!" one of them says, after the screen flashes the word "CLEARED" and the score on the Groove Gauge reflects even a Wailing Bonus. "You passed the stage."

If anyone over at least 35 were in the arcade this morning -- and if they had lived in Phoenix through enough of the '70s -- they might recognize the old dude behind the toy guitar as Jerry Riopelle, the rock star only Phoenix understood.

Largely ignored by the rest of the world, Riopelle was one of the most-played artists on Phoenix rock radio during the '70s and has retained a loyal following of baby boomers here, thanks largely to a series of New Year's Eve concerts at the Celebrity Theatre that have become legendary gatherings of his fans, who rival the Deadheads or Jimmy Buffett's Parrotheads in terms of stubborn devotion.

"He's played and sold out the Celebrity more times than any other performer in the history of the building," says Evening Star promoter Danny Zelisko, who booked Riopelle into his first New Year's Eve headliner there in 1975 and has remained a close friend. "That's pretty phenomenal, when you think of all the artists who've played there."

This New Year's Eve, after a five-year semi-retirement, Riopelle will once again take the stage at the Celebrity for what will mark the 30th anniversary since that first gig -- and possibly, he says, his farewell New Year's show.

But on this Saturday morning in late November, he's not thinking about what he'll play at that era-ending event. Instead, he's hanging at the arcade, testing out the competition for the interactive music-based game being built around the invention he's been quietly working on for the past 11 years: a device that allows anybody to make music by breaking laser beams in the air.

"I want to try out the other music-related games," he says, waving his hands over the sensor pads in DanceManiax 2nd Mix, "so that the next time I have a meeting with Jason and John from Roxor, I'll know what they're talking about."

Among the ├╝ber game geeks who haunt the Valley's top arcade, just hearing Riopelle mention the names of the head honchos from Roxor Games, the upstart Austin-based company whose arcade and PS2 dance game In the Groove has managed to steal considerable thunder from genre dominator Dance Dance Revolution, elicits bows of respect.

"You've met Jason Asbahr?" says one teen gamer, rolling the name over with the type of awed adoration typically reserved for rock stars.

Not only that, Riopelle says, he's met with guys from Microsoft's Xbox team, a head engineer at Apple, and some folks at Sony in charge of engineering the next PlayStation -- all of whom have expressed interest in utilizing the technology behind his invention.

"Whoa!" say the chorus of gamers.

While most '70s rockers are settling into a kind of Mike Love retirement plan of sporadic casino gigs and bitter royalties lawsuits, Riopelle is onto an unlikely second act as a cutting-edge video game developer and interactive music visionary.

After four decades in the music business, a career he began working studio gigs with the iconic Phil Spector, Jerry Riopelle is finally cool.

"It's weird," he says, stepping outside the arcade for a break from the noise. "You're talking to a guy who, as a recording artist, was always behind the curve on the latest trends. All of a sudden now, it looks like I'm ahead of one.

"I just wish I was younger," he adds, in a quiet voice aged in eons of raspy rock 'n' roll singing. "I don't know if I'll have time to enjoy this money."

(To read more, go to:

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Blog On!!

Hi Jimmy,
Christmas seems like a good time to say a special thanks to you for creating such a cool, thoughtful website. Your "labor of love" sends a lot of good will out into the universe. Being able to share ideas and connect with friends both old and new through your site is what the spirit of peace is all about. Thanks!

Here's to a happy and peaceful 2006!!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

No Hope? Try!!

Bush does it again? Surprising? Not so much. Horrifying? Yes.

One of the best kept secrets on the web and a good source for finding out if something from the rumor mill (political or otherwise) is true is this: check out

It's got that perfect blend of entertaining and horrifying info that will make you decide to refill your Prozac!!

Happy holidays!
P.S. Go see "Good Night and Good Luck."

HOMEWORK: Did he REALLY say that?

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!" Perhaps the best thing is to pretend our President did not say The Constitution "is just a god-damned piece of paper. Perhaps the best thing is to just accept that the corruption within our government will continually re-define itself--which will inevitably result in its own self-destruction

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Orwellian Times? Nah! RIOPELLE-ian!!

Anyone who has been in the Valley since the early 1970's knows that Jerry Riopelle is a favorite son. Bill Compton (2005 AZ Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame inductee) did much to promote Riopelle's music. Since then Jerry Riopelle has continued to be a bonafide Arizona legend. His New Year's Eve shows at the Celebrity Theatre were the place to be for many years.

This New Years eve you can join Jerry Riopelle at the Celebrity Theatre for his 30th Anniversary New Years Eve blowout. I can say with authority that you won't find anything more entertaining to do this New Years Eve. Riopelle will perform a long awaited and sure to be spectacular reunion date at the historic Celebrity Theatre, the Valley's only intact original indoor rock venue.

The Celebrity claims a unique place in the Valley's rock and roll history book. In the late 1960's the Arizona State Legislature had collective cardiac arrest about Jim Morrison's performance at the AZ Veterans Memorial Colisuem. After the Door's performance, the alarmed legislators voted to close the AZ Coliseum doors to rock concerts. Thankfully it didn't take long for the new Celebrity Theatre to come to the rescue. The Celebrity gave us our first glimpe of a REAL venue for our music. The acoustics were fantastic. Seats were great. The line of sight couldn't be beat. Concerts were always packed.

In the 1970's the Celebrity, then known as Buster Bonoff's Celebrity Theatre, hosted greats like George Carlin (you can see this one on HBO!) Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Harry Chapin, Genesis, Loggins and Messina, Scherazade, and Loudon Wainwright III. Those are only a fraction of the Celebrity Theatre concerts that kept us groovin' in those days.

The theatre's revolving stage was a source of curiosity back then. Watching each artist react to the revolving stage was sometimes hilarious. Some said they would prefer to perform strolling around the circumfrence themselves than to be slowly orbited around the theatre. Once in awhile it came down to one of two things being stopped: the revolving stage or the show. I vividly remember George Carlin's raised eyebrow accompanied by a momentary look of paranoia as he realized the stage was revolving.

Cruising that circular path around the stage was an event for the audience members as well. Greetings would be hollered out by early bird fans as they spotted their laid back counterparts casually ambling across to their seats. The scene would have made a good R. Crumb cartoon. And though the Celebrity Theatre eventually closed for a few years when Bonoff sold it, it reopened and continued, although for awhile not as the premier venue it once was.

The Celebrity is now in its best incarnation since the theatre's heyday. A great time to come and visit this beloved Valley of the Sun stomping ground will be on Dec 31st for Jerry Riopelle's New Year's Eve concert. In the parlance of the times, it will be a happening, man! Even the AZ Republic newspaper is getting into the spirit by asking readers for their fondest (wild or mild!) memories of a Riopelle New Years Eve show. So, if you can talk about them, email your memories to the newspaper at Your comments might make it into an upcoming article on Riopelle.

In addition to the 30th Anniversary New Years Eve concert there's also some very hip stuff happening with Jerry Riopelle and Radio Free Phoenix. Jerry, Paul, "Sweet" Naomi, and Jeff Hollie (Riopelle's sax player) will be guest dj's on the Valley's own progressive internet radio station Radio Free Phoenix. The show is scheduled to air on Saturday Dec. 17th at 5:00 pm and again on Sunday Dec. 18th at 3:00 pm on 

If you haven't yet heard the incredible stream of non commerical music that comes forth from this "radio with a heart and a conscience" you don't know what you're missing. True to the station's self description, RFP's Cheryl Sweet put an ebay auction together to assist New Orleans street musicians who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The auction, which ends on December 15th, features some rare and funky items.

Auction items include an original KCAC poster, original KZON memorabilia, some 60's era Top 40 KRUX and KRIZ mementos, and souveniers from the Wallace and Ladmo show (Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald were inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005.) Well known artist Tracy Dove also donated two original works of art which beautifully embody the spirit of a generation.

Leave it to Riopelle to donate one of the coolest items to the Radio Free Phoenix auction: a pair of wild pink Doc Marten shoes that Alice Cooper gave Jerry when he mentioned that he liked Alice's shoes! You can get more details and take a look at all the auction items on the site.
Riopelle's 4 CD anthology set is currently being manufactured. It will be ready in time for fans to snap it up on New Years Eve at his Celebrity Theatre gig. The title of the anthology collection is Jerry Riopelle/The Works 1970-2000. For those of you who can't make it out to the Celebrity Theatre for Jerry's 30th Anniversary New Years Eve show, you should be able to purchase the CD set online and in Phoenix area stores in late January.  

To pick up your tickets to Riopelle's 30th Anniversary New Year's blast, go to or call 602-267-1600
See you there!

Mariah Fleming,
Radio Free Phoenix
AZ Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame 

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hey World! We're Not Just Nostalgia!!

That's right! Imagine, you can see a big story about the moods and music of the 70's and you don't have to make a pledge for a tote bag!! Well it's true! All you've gotta do is get out your glasses and go find the December issue of Phoenix Magazine (I got mine at Walgreens at 2 am! A good story all by itself!) The magazine is a little tardy in giving a nod to the subculture(d) but nonetheless, for them, it's hot off the presses!! And it's a cover story no less.

It's about Bill Compton and almost all things 1970's. In the magazine aisle, just look for a bright yellow cover with a smiley face on the Dec issue. Don't think about the guy in that era who came up with the "Smiley Face" and reportedly never made a dime. Just marvel at the seriously cool pictures that depict the Valley of the Sun in those days. They're accurate. Thank God they didn't find one of me.

For instance there's Bill Thompson no doubt leering at Mary Jo West, the first woman anchor in Phoenix. It was probably taken her second or third night on the air when he asked her to show him her appendix scar. Was the patriarchal news gang at CBS in tune with the times or what??

The 70's story includes much on people who were honored at the first AZ Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame induction ceremony this last April. There's Wallace, Ladmo and Gerald of course. And some very interesting reporting on the KBKD heyday and Bill Compton. Anybody remember Belle Starr? Who knew??

Now's our chance! Let's start our own "We're Not Just Nostalgia!" movement. Read the article, and send lots of letters to the editor at Phoenix Magazine letting 'em know that Radio Free Phoenix thrives and KCAC Lives! Those times are alive and well (and newsworthy too.) Remember campers, we were all about "Just Do It" before it was a tennis shoe logo!! Are you with me?
Radio Free Phoenix

Friday, December 02, 2005